Q & A with Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.
Boston Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr. watches the flight of his two-run triple off a pitch by New York Yankees' Sonny Gray. –The Associated Press

Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. joined Chris Gasper on the Boston Globe’s Season Ticket podcast, recorded at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner last week. Bradley Jr. talked about trade rumors, the Yankees acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, and the best catch he’s ever made.

Here are some of the highlights from the Q&A:

On trade rumors and communicating with Dave Dombrowski

CG: Have you had any communication this offseason with Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski? Because your name has been mentioned in trade rumors, which is just part of playing in Boston really, there’s all kinds of rumors. Have you spoken to him at all about those trade rumors and gotten any sort of assurances from him that ‘hey you’re not on the block Jackie’?

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JBJ: I have personally not spoken with Dave Dombrowski. Besides speaking with him a couple of minutes ago, checking in and seeing how his families doing.

CG: On a human level, because I think sometimes people forget that you guys are human beings not just the people they see on their TV. I mean, what is that like when you hear your name in trade rumors? Does any of that stuff filter into your world?

JBJ: No, not for me. It’s one of those things where I have a perspective that, you know, it’s something out of my control. Maybe if it was something I could control, I would have a sort of emotional attachment with it. But at the end of the day, you have to realize it’s a business and they want to do what’s best for the team. And I want to help the team. So at the end of the day, if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. The whole ‘what ifs’ and stuff like that, you can’t let that control your off season and I surely don’t let it control mine.

On his approach to defense

CG: We can’t have you on, Jackie, and not talk about your defense. It’s jaw dropping. You’re one of the best if not the best in the game. What’s your approach defensively? Have you always been this good on defense, like when you were a kid were you always this good at tracking the ball? Or is there something that happened to make you this good?

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JBJ: I think it’s a combination. I just have fun with it. That’s what it all boils down to. Everybody talks about how easy it looks and this and that. Ever since I was a kid I would try to make it look as easy as possible. I would try to make all of these Top Ten plays. It was to the point where I had some coaches were like, “Well, you’re never going to be on Top Ten plays. You’re just not going to.” I would look at them in a puzzled look and they were like, “You don’t understand what I’m saying. You make it look too easy. So that’s why you’re not going to be on there.” So, I took it as a compliment. But, it’s something that I’ve always worked at. As I came through the system, people used to tag this ‘power shagging.’ During batting practice, I would just treat every single ball as if it were a live situation. And I just got better and better.

On robbing Aaron Judge and the most difficult catch he’s ever made

JBJ: I would say one of the most difficult catches that I made was probably in 2014. Rubby De La Rosa was on the mound. We were playing against the Chicago White Sox and Tyler Flowers hit a ball into the right center field gap. Full extension. I’m talking about as far as I could possibly go. The glove was probably halfway off my hand and the ball hit probably the tip of my glove, snow cone. I remember [Alejandro] De Aza was on second base and as I get up from the ground and I throw it in, he tagged up! So, it’s almost like he knew I was going to catch it!

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CG: That’s the ultimate compliment.

Jackie Bradley Jr.: That’s all I could really think about at that particular time. It was either zero or one outs. I got up to throw it and I wasn’t even excited I made the catch. I was just frustrated that he was still able to tag, knowing I was going to catch it or something.

CG: Can you walk me through that Aaron Judge catch? 

JBJ: Obviously, Aaron Judge is a strong human being so you’re not going to be playing him at normal depth like any other ballplayer. Off the bat, I obviously knew it sounded good and it had the height and the distance. At that time it was just, get back there as quick as possible. Initial break, I knew I had to get back there so I didn’t look at the ball initially. I always try to focus on an area — that’s how I’m able to pick up speed in the first couple steps. As I start approaching the fence, I turn back to try to find it again. Fenway’s angled right where I was headed — not only is it angled at the base of the fence, but it’s also angled where the bullpen and the 420 [marker meet] there’s another angle that goes up as well. So it was just, if I go to shallow it’s going to go over my head. But if I go too deep, I’m not going to be able to get my arm over the fence because it gradually slopes upwards. So, I happened to find that happy medium to not only get up but also to reach back at the same time. It was unbelievable. The timing of it being Sunday Night Baseball and Aaron Judge, I think that’s what made it a pretty hyped play.

CG: And you seemed pretty hyped afterward. A lot of time you make these catches and it’s like ‘oh I expect to make it.’ That one, I think you pounded your chest a little.

JBJ: That was a big play. I think it was the eighth inning. David Price was on the mound. And, you know, that was a momentum changer. We were able to win the game and I think we won by one or two runs. So it was a big play.

CG: And you guys ended up winning the AL East by two games. So who knows if that’s different if that goes into the bullpen.

JBJ: Exactly.

On the Yankees acquiring Giancarlo Stanton

CG: You guys have won a lot of ballgames the last two years, back-to-back 93-win seasons. This offseason, though, the focus seems to be on the fact that the team needs to add more power. You guys were last in the American League in home runs last year, 27th in Major League Baseball. Do you feel like you guys need to add some big bat to this lineup or do you feel like that increase in power can come internally from the guys that are already on the team?

JBJ: The first thing I want to mention — you did say back to back AL East champions, right? With the team that we have right now?

CG: Correct.

JBJ: Oh, OK. I was just wondering if I heard that correctly. But, I mean, I don’t know what we need to do. It’s out of my pay grade. I’m sure there’s a lot of smart people who do and they’re going to make decisions accordingly. All I know is that we have a very very good team as it is. Can we get better? Absolutely. And I think that’s what they’re trying to do: make the team better.

CG: Fans look at it and say that the Yankees got Giancarlo Stanton, so the Red Sox have to respond with a tit-for-tat thing. As a player, when you hear the Yankees just got Stanton, what goes through your mind?

JBJ: Sure does look good on paper! But I’ve never seen paper win ballgames. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a major acquisition, because it is. You just took the home run champ and put him on a squad that already had a lot of homers. Everybody can do math in that sense. So, you know, it was a pretty big move, obviously. But you still got to go out there and play the game. You never know. Any given Sunday.

CG: For you guys, any given day. There’s not a lot of breaks in baseball.

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